Heathrow Queues: Immigration Minister Damian Green To Be Grilled After Olympics Concerns

PA/Huffington Post UK  |  Posted: 28/04/2012 15:15 Updated: 28/04/2012 15:15

Heathrow Border
Queues at Heathrow have been labelled 'unacceptable'

The long queues at Heathrow have now cleared, but with the Olympic games on the horizon, questions are being asked about the airport's ability to cope with increased traffic.

Immigration Minister Damian Green is to be grilled by MPs about the chronic queues, after another passenger reported having to wait in lengthy queuess to get past passport control.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is a real problem and the problem has emerged over the last few months.

"I'm not saying we should abandon checks, but it's a choice for the government - you either look at the way you deal with people when they arrive at Heathrow or you recruit more staff.

"This is not just about the Olympics, this is about what happens before and after, it's about Heathrow as a world-class airport and it's about our reputation, and we need to make sure we get it sorted."


Christian Fraser
UNBELIEVABLE Q's at 5 tonight - 100's stuck the wrong side of passport control - 2 hr wait - roll on the Olympics!!! Embarrassing

The Labour MP said that queues of more than half an hour were not acceptable.

"I would have thought by the time you get off a plane and you've walked a long way from the plane to immigration, half an hour would be a problem.

"Anything from zero minutes and 30 minutes would probably be acceptable but people would expect to get through much quicker."

A spokeswoman for BAA, which owns Heathrow, said last night's long queues, which saw passengers waiting for up to an hour, had cleared by midnight.

Discussing the situation today, she said: "Everything is looking quite good in the immigration halls. Things are moving and we haven't got major queues.

"The Border Force is putting staff where they are needed at the moment."

Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications chief wrote on Twitter was caught up in Thursday night's queues, tweeted: "If this is what Heathrow T5 border queue is like on an average Thursday, Olympic athletes should think about coming soon."


Alastair Campbell
If this is what Heathrow T5 border queue is like on an average Thursday Olympic athletes should think about coming soon

A BAA spokeswoman added: "Immigration is a matter for the Home Office. Immigration waiting times during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptable and we have called on the Home Office to address the problem as a matter of urgency.

"There isn't a trade-off between strong border security and a good passenger experience - the Home Office should be delivering both."

A Border Force spokesman said: "We will not compromise border security but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand."

No date has yet been announced for Mr Green's appearance before the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Border Force head Brian Moore said: "The vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly. Queues are caused by a number of factors, including incorrect flight manifests or early or late planes which result in bunching.

"The important factor is to have staff that are flexibly deployed in the right numbers at the right times and this is what we always try to do.

"We are working with BAA to monitor arrival schedules and passenger flows for the rest of the weekend."

On the issue of the Olympics, he added: "We are fully prepared to manage busy periods during the Olympics and will be implementing our well-rehearsed plans."

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